How to disrespect your users - a windows 8 way

Posted on September 24, 2013

TL;DR Let your system update while users can use it, instead of letting them wait for an update while they are locked out.

Out of (morbid?) curiosity I played with windows 8 last night. This morning I woke up with some inspiration to write. So I found the restart button that would let me get back to Ubuntu. Instead of respecting my wish, and restarting right away, the computer showed me this:

Configuring windows, 16% complete

Configuring windows, 16% complete

It took several minutes before restarting. This is a great way to tell your users “I don’t care about you, or your precious time”.

Mac OS way is slightly less worse in this respect, it warns the user when there is an update, that it requires restarting, and gives the user the choice whether I want to install them or not. It still frequently requires restarts though, and takes its time installing things during the restart, while I can’t do anything with the computer.

Ubuntu, and other debian variants, do it much better. They install most updates while the system is running, and rarely require a whole system restart. When it requires a restart, it only restarts to reload components that have been installed while the system keeps running, so it takes only a few seconds, which means the user kan keep on working. Updates where the user has to restart the system are rare. By choosing a stable or unstable distribution, the user also can influence how often this happens - stable versions come with fewer updates that require restarts.

This is not exactly new behaviour, at least windows XP did the same thing. On a project I worked on, there was one developer running windows, because te company he worked for only provided locked down windows laptops. So he had no choice but to automatically install all updates. Whenever he wanted to go home sometimes 15 minutes or more. So his solution was to carefully look if there were updates, and shut down his laptop at least twenty minutes before the end of the workday, so he could get home. So that was twenty minutes of lost productivity on a regular basis. Here as well, Mac OS is slightly less worse - it installs the udpates on the start side of the restart cycle, not on the shutdown side. So you can shutdown your computer, go home and have a coffee the next day when it installs your updates.

For developers it is a lot easier to update a system when it is offline, since the user can not do anything with the system, the user can also not do anything wrong. Designing a system that can update itself while it is running is a lot harder. In the end, it is worth it. Think about all the time people around the world lose staring at these “installed x% of an update” messages and take it as an inspiration to do it better.

comments powered by Disqus
More posts by Willem van den Ende RSS feed Atom feed